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GAME DEVELOPMENT FOR STUDENTS

Creating a Student-Led Game Development Curriculum

I executed this project independently in consultation with the Game Lab directors and other key stakeholders in digital education experiences at Duke University.

 

THE CHALLENGE

  • Identify the challenges and necessary resources to create game development opportunities for students and staff supporting hands-on learning for game and media studies programs.

  • Increase the exposure of Duke University’s new Game Lab to new audiences at the University and within the community.

 

MY APPROACH

RESEARCH PHASE

  • Understand the existing landscape of game-based education at Duke and peer-institutions.

  • Map student and faculty needs.

DESIGN PHASE

  • Develop a pilot program that allows students to design games to meet key learning objectives.

EXECUTION PHASE

  • Deliver the curriculum while course-correcting through regular surveys, group observations, and interviews.

EVALUATION PHASE

  • Collect findings in a summative report of performance and student experience for stakeholders to drive future resource allocation.

 

RESEARCH PHASE

What: Stakeholder interviews informed my understanding of client’s desired audience, the current state of game design education, and goals for future growth. I contextualized stakeholder insights further through a literature review of existing game design in teaching.


Key takeaways:

  • Game design in universities traditionally focused on faculty-led projects due to lengthy development timelines. This limits opportunities for students, negatively impacting educational outcomes and professional development.

  • Instructional staff wanted to integrate game development in both game studies and non-game studies courses. Staff, however, lacked experience and confidence in teaching game and iterative design principles.

A successful program should…

  • Allow students of all levels to create games in an environment that supported design failure as part of the learning process.

  • Be easily replicable by staff of varying exposure to game development processes in future years.

  • Require very little financial investment up-front from the Game Lab itself.

 

DESIGN PHASE

What: A partnership with the Global Game Jam (GGJ) held at the end of January 2020 preceded by a workshop series on foundational concepts in digital and analog game design.


Why: The GGJ offered free instructional and logistical support as a global network of site organizers that could support future organizers of the program. The GGJ is also recognized within the game development community, allowing student to better network and use their projects in portfolios for professional opportunities.


The workshop series allowed us to promote the new Lab while simultaneously exposing students and staff to foundational concepts in game development to apply during the GGJ to make up for the limited existing expertise in game development on campus.

 

EVALUATION PHASE

What: I tracked event attendance throughout the program and circulated a survey through Qualtrics following the GGJ as well as interviewing students about their experience to assess the event’s effectiveness, potential improvements, and interest for future years.


Key findings:

  • 100% of Jammers reported interested in participating in future years

  • 20% of Jammers wanted a regular design jam club to continue working on their skills between Jams.

  • Jammers did not find the site Discord channel a useful way of coordinating, preferring email or text chats among the group instead.

  • Many Jammers could not attend the opening events of the GGJ on Friday where guidance on how to start and manage a project were given.

 

Suggestions for iteration:

  • Explore whether activating the Discord server months or weeks prior to the event would add value by allowing students to get to know one another or share resources.

  • Add an synchronous option for the Friday programming that could be reviewed beforehand, such as a recording of one of the workshops and/or a PDF design guide.

Explore interest and best approaches to creating a standing student-led game development club that would allow students to connect outside of the GGJ program.

 

EVALUATION PHASE

What: I tracked event attendance throughout the program and circulated a survey through Qualtrics following the GGJ as well as interviewing students about their experience to assess the event’s effectiveness, potential improvements, and interest for future years.


Key findings:

  • 100% of Jammers reported interested in participating in future years

  • 20% of Jammers wanted a regular design jam club to continue working on their skills between Jams.

  • Jammers did not find the site Discord channel a useful way of coordinating, preferring email or text chats among the group instead.

  • Many Jammers could not attend the opening events of the GGJ on Friday where guidance on how to start and manage a project were given.

 

Suggestions for iteration:

  • Explore whether activating the Discord server months or weeks prior to the event would add value by allowing students to get to know one another or share resources.

  • Add an synchronous option for the Friday programming that could be reviewed beforehand, such as a recording of one of the workshops and/or a PDF design guide.

  • Explore interest and best approaches to creating a standing student-led game development club that would allow students to connect outside of the GGJ program.